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Friday 31 January 2014

Interview with Elizabeth Corley

Elizabeth Corley talks with Lizzie Hayes

Elizabeth Corley was brought up in West Sussex.
She manages to balance her high-powered corporate job as
Chief Executive for a global investment company,
with a crime-writing career –
dealing with numbers by day and dark, creative writing by night.
A one-time committee member and vice-chairperson of the
Crime Writers’ Association, Elizabeth still is a member of the organisation.
She is married, with a stepdaughter, and divides her time between London,
Germany and France.

Lizzie: You have recently published Dead of Winter, your fifth book featuring DCI Andrew Fenwick.  Can you tell us about this book?
Liz: Thank you Lizzie, for the chance to talk about Dead of Winter.  The book is about a deeply troubled teenage girl, Issie Matthias, who vanishes from her boarding school.  Everyone assumes she’s run away but she has in fact been abducted by an increasingly sadistic abuser.  After witnessing her abductor murder his brother, her safety relies on her keeping him satisfied, living in a fantasy world where she is ‘Bonnie’ to his ‘Clyde’.  Part of the book is about Issie’s journey from a very dark place to one where she is determined to do whatever it takes to survive. Fenwick is assigned to the case and the police start a search for her, consistently one step behind her abductor as he travels across the frozen Sussex countryside in the depths of Winter.  The book features Fenwick and Nightingale again as the central police characters but in parallel the reader also experiences Issie’s struggle for survival against diminishing odds.

Lizzie: When you set out to write Requiem Mass. your first book , did you already have DCI Andrew Fenwick in mind, and if so was he based on anyone, or did he emerge as you wrote?
Liz: I didn’t have him in mind at all.  Andrew Fenwick isn’t based on anyone I know.  “Emerged” is a good word to describe his creation.  That is exactly what he did.  Fenwick is an elusive character, from the first book to the most recent.  He is multi-layered and adept at hiding behind protective walls of distance that he erects around himself.  As a widowed single father he is intensely protective of his children but at the same time he finds it impossible to compromise on any investigation that he is put in charge of.  That places an increasing burden on him, particularly as the children grow older (his daughter Bess is now a teenager and some of her bad behaviour is definitely based on mine!). He remains a private man, even to me.  At the end of each book, it is as if he withdraws again and I have to coax him out for the next.

Lizzie: Sergeant Nightingale - from where did she spring?
Liz: Like Fenwick, Louise Nightingale is her own person – very much so. In the first book, she is a graduate entrant to the police on an accelerated promotion scheme.  As such she is the butt of a lot of jokes and hidden jealousy but she is a very strong and determined character who has grown with every book.  I didn’t envisage this originally, she was more there as a complement to Fenwick, but she has increasingly demanded more space and her role in the latest books is virtually equal to Fenwick’s.

Lizzie: Are the ideas for your books sparked by real events and people, or do ideas just come to you? Or a mixture of both?
Liz: The ideas arrive spontaneously and are never based on real events or people.  The places that the stories are located in are real and rooted in my experience though as I find I need to have a strong sense of place for each scene.  If I include forensic detail I research that as extensively as possible but the plots and people are entirely fictional.  

Lizzie:     Do you plan your plots before you start writing?  And, if so, do your books change during the writing process, or do they pan out exactly as you originally planned?
Liz:         I wish I could; I envy and admire writers who can do this.  I’m just a storyteller pure and simple.  Quite often I picture a scene, even the denouement, and write towards this, not even knowing who will live and who will die.  So as the book grows, I’m writing as if I were turning the pages of the novel, in order to find out what happens next.  When people ask me to comment on how I achieve a sense of suspense, I tell them it’s because I don’t know what is going to happen as I am writing.  I think that might increase the tension.

Lizzie: When embarking on a new book, what area of the book challenges you the most?
Liz: The middle, always the middle.  I normally have the end in mind when I write but then things happen.  My characters won’t always do what I want them to and it can be some time before I realise why they were right and my original idea was wrong.  That is part of what I find so enjoyable when I’m writing but inevitably by the middle of the book, strands of plot end up in there that need to be cut out.  Choices need to be made, some minor characters and scenes dropped.  I sense when that need is coming and then keep putting it off, as I find it a difficult thing to do!  But the way I write, it is always necessary to bite the bullet eventually in order to drive the momentum of the story.

Lizzie: Do you have a favourite part of the writing process?
Liz: That’s a good question but I don’t think I do.  Every aspect has its charm: the first tingle of an idea, the excitement as it becomes more tangible, and the sense of progress as chapters flow.  Every now and then there are “aha” moments when something I’ve written takes on a greater significance; perhaps those are among the best times.

Lizzie: You have by my count had five books published in the UK, but I note that there is a book entitled Crescendo which I understand was published in Germany. Despite some exhaustive searching I haven’t been able to discover which of the five books it is, or if it is a completely different book.  I quote the reference to it I discovered…
‘Corley has a large following in Germany and several of her titles have been translated into
German. This is one of them. However,
, familiar to all musicians as an indication to gradually increase the loudness also gives no clue. I haven't yet figured out what is the title for the original version in English.’
Personally with the reference to music, I suspect maybe Requiem Mass. Can you enlighten me, or have I the pleasure of an unread Elizabeth Corley to look forward to?
Liz: That is a good guess but Crescendo is the German title for Grave Doubts, book three, not another Fenwick mystery thriller I’m afraid.  Requiem Mass was published as Requiem for eine Sängerin. To save anyone ordering other German titles by mistake, Fatal Legacy is Nachruf auf eine Rose and Innocent Blood is Sine Culpa.  In terms of looking forward to another novel, I am working on the sixth and making good progress so far...

Lizzie: There is quite a gap between the publications of Innocent Blood in 2008 and Dead of Winter (2013).  What occasioned this?
 Liz:  The financial crisis, pure and simple.  From 2008 until end 2009, the challenges at work were especially intense and I found that they consumed all my creative energy.  As the global economy and markets have started to improve so too has my capacity to write.

Lizzie: The question I most want to ask is how do you manage to fit in writing when you are Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director at Allianz Global Investors Europe Gmbh.  Prior to joining
Allianz, you were Managing Director at Merrill Lynch Investment Managers, served as Head of Distribution for Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific. And was also a Partner at Coopers & Lybrand. Additionally,
you have also worked in the Life & Pensions industry, and more…. I am lost inadmiration. How do you do it?
Liz: That’s kind of you, Lizzie but in fact, I was simply very lucky and then worked hard.  I didn’t go to university and my first job out of school was as a shop assistant.  I then became a temp in an insurance company.  They offered me a permanent position and the chance to study in the evenings for professional exams.  Everything else followed.  I had always enjoyed English composition at school but after I started work,

I found that I only wrote in the holidays and never sustained the focus once they were over. When my step daughter went to university about the same time I changed jobs and took a month off, which gave me a longer opportunity to write.  A while earlier I’d had the idea for Requiem Mass and once I started on the book, I found that I had to keep on writing until it was finished.  Since then (with the exception in 2008/9 mentioned before) I have always been working on a book.  I tend to write at weekends and on holiday but I always have a pad of paper with me in case there is a chance to scribble – even if it is only outline ideas for a future chapter.

Lizzie: There were some long awaited changes in Dead of Winter.  Could they herald a change in the series?  So do you have any plans for another series?
Liz:  Another great question.  It’s been suggested that Nightingale could – and some say should - have her own series but right now there remain too many unresolved issues and opportunities while she and Fenwick share the pages together.  I have also had ideas for a couple of stand-alone novels (as opposed to another series) but then Requiem Mass was meant to be a one off so who knows?

Lizzie: So what’s next?
Liz:  I’m working on book six in the series and it is zinging along at the moment.  So I’m hopeful that I won’t be so long in completing this one.  It is a book written with a survivor’s perspective, which is new for me and I’m enjoying the challenge. 

My thanks to Liz for taking the time to talk to us. 

Books Are:
Requiem Mass (1998)
Fatal Legacy (2000)
Grave Doubts (2006)
Innocent Blood (2008)
Dead of Winter (2013)

Tuesday 21 January 2014

‘The Ghosts of Mayfield Court’ by Norman Russell

Published by Robert Hale,
31 July 2013. ISBN:

Although Catherine Paget's uncle, Maximilian Paget, has become increasingly irascible over the years, he is the only living relation she has ever known and the person who took her in and cared for her when she was orphaned as a young child, and she loves him dearly. However, now that Catherine is a grown woman she wishes that her uncle would respect her viewpoint and take her into his confidence. Max is particularly disapproving of Catherine's friendship with Marguerite Danvers, who encourages Catherine's interest in spiritualism, but he approves of Marguerite's brother, Michael Danvers, who is courting Catherine. When Uncle Max tells Catherine that he has inherited a dilapidated property called Mayfield Court, she is eager to know more and concerned about Uncle Max's strange manner when speaking of the bequest but she knows he will not tell her anything about the past.

Catherine and Uncle Max go to Mayfield Court to inspect the property, although it seems to Catherine that her uncle's main purpose is to go through all the old papers left at the house; whether to preserve or destroy them is unclear. The woman employed in the village to help at the house tells Catherine the story of little Helen, a child who visited, stayed for one night at Mayfield Court and was never seen again. During the thirty years since Helen's disappearance many people have claimed to see the ghost of a young girl. Catherine believes in spiritualism and is sure that she herself has received messages from the dead. She twice sees what she believes to be a ghost and the second time it leads her to the discovery of the skeleton of a child.

This leads to the arrival of the local police, led by Detective Inspector Saul Jackson and his subordinate, Detective Sergeant Herbert Bottomley. The first thing they need to do is discover the identity of the victim, for there is evidence that the child called Helen survived and is now respectably married with children of her own.

Uncle Max takes Catherine back to London, but tragedy follows them, as does danger and treachery. It takes all of Jackson and Bottomley's skill and determination to discover the truth behind the covetousness and evil that lay at the heart of the crimes, as they strive for justice for the dead child and to prevent harm coming to another innocent victim.

The Ghosts of Mayfield Court has a very interesting structure, with just over one-third of the book told in Catherine's First Person viewpoint, as if, some years later she is writing an account of what had happened. The rest of the book is a Third Person account of the investigation carried out by Jackson and Bottomley. This structure works very well and the move from one viewpoint to another progresses smoothly. Catherine is an appealing heroine and the police, both rural and in London, are well portrayed, especially the wonderful Sergeant Bottomley. Although he will never gain promotion because he is 'too fond of the bottle,' Bottomley is a shrewd, hardworking policeman, and a generous, kind-hearted man; the father of eight daughters, 'all living,' he is deeply affected by the discovery of the child's skeleton, and it is he who forms the main link between Catherine's narrative and the description of the official investigation.

The Ghosts of Mayfield Court has a complex plot because of its multi-stranded back story but it is also a compelling and very enjoyable read.
Reviewer: Carol Westron
Norman Russell was born in Whitson, Lancashire, but has lived most of his life in Liverpool.  After graduating from Jesus College, Oxford, where he studied English, he served in the army in the Bahamas and Jamaica.  He returned to Oxford to study for a diploma in education and later was awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy from the University of London.  He now writes full time.


Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats is the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013

Sunday 19 January 2014

‘The Lost’ by Claire McGowan

Published by Headline in hardback,
ISBN: 978 0 7553 8637 6

An average of sixteen people per day go missing in Ireland, say police statistics, and teenage girls make up a large proportion of them. But two missing girls in one small border town in the same month is unusual, to say the least.

Forensic psychologist Paula Maguire returns to the home town she abandoned twelve years earlier to join a specialist squad set up to investigate cold missing persons cases, only to find herself thrown in at the sharp end now that the two girls have become the priority.

A fertile enough premise in itself, you’d think – but there is much, much more to this richly layered novel. The town is populated by a plentiful mix of personalities, some with a well developed back story, others with only a sketch, and even when the background is no more than an outline, there’s a strong sense of three dimensions, and life continuing off the page.

Paula Maguire herself is one of the most complex characters I’ve recently encountered in a crime novel. She isn’t always likeable, but Claire McGowan is a skilled enough writer to make her protagonist intriguing even when you want to slap her.

Like her native Northern Ireland, Maguire is damaged by a past which has left too many scars and rifts for healing to come easily. She’s intuitive and determined, and cares deeply about the work she has taken on; she also impetuous and makes some poor choices, and has a problem with authority.
Northern Ireland itself is almost another character in the tangled plot. Several times I shook my head in despair as the police failed to follow up yet another obvious lead – but it was plain that the author was all too familiar with her home country’s destructive history from which recovery will be a long, slow process, and the leftover issues it faces.

It’s tempting to place The Lost in that category of fiction often described as a novel first and a crime novel only incidentally, but that would be to do an injustice to a plot which kept this hardened reader guessing right up to the final kick in the ending. There’s no reason at all why a cracking good crime novel shouldn’t have all the qualities which should define good literary fiction: quality writing, vividly drawn characters with a life outside the confines of the plot, a powerful sense of the environment in which it’s set, and above all, something important to say. It has all this, and is a great page-turner as well.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Claire McGowan grew up in a small village in Northern Ireland. After a degree in English and French from Oxford University she moved to London and worked in the charity sector. The Lost is her second novel.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning.  
She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

Wednesday 15 January 2014

‘Down in New Orleans’ by Heather Graham

Published by OpenRoadMedia
(available on Kindle)

Ann and Jon Marcel are divorced, but unlike many divorced couples they are not just on good terms but are good friends. Jon, an outstandingly talented artist based in New Orleans, has even found premises for Ann, a shop with a flat above so she can run the shop as a card and craft shop and also find time for her own painting. But one night, Jon staggers into her flat and mumbles ‘I didn’t do it’. ‘It’ is the murder of the stripper Gina L’Aveau, one of several strippers and prostitutes who have modelled for Jon in a series of paintings entitled ‘Red Light Ladies’. The police, particularly Lieutenant Mark LaCrosse, see Jon as the prime suspect. But Jon himself has been seriously wounded and taken into intensive care and so cannot account for what happened; the police believe that Gina fought to save her life although the murder weapon cannot be found. However, Ann believes that it would have been totally out of character for Jon to have murdered anyone. In order to clear her husband’s name Ann has to explore not only the tawdry world of New Orleans strip clubs but also the mysterious and shadowy environment of the bayous and voodoo rituals. At the same time the initial attraction that she and Mark feel for one another seems to be growing into something more substantial - but that is as fraught with danger as Ann’s quest to save her husband from the electric chair.

I rather enjoyed this book and do recommend it. The author’s description of New Orleans and the bayous are vivid and realistic while the plot moves along at a brisk pace and the portrayal of the strippers whom Jon painted is sympathetic. It is an example of something rare in British crime fiction - the one-off story. It is in fact a romantic suspense story, of which there are more in US crime fiction. Consequently there is a certain amount of ecstatic sex but I can assure readers who find That Sort of Thing tedious that it can be skimmed as it does not contribute to the plot ie the mystery of who actually did kill Gina L’Aveau . . . which is a real surprise.
Reviewer: Radmila May

Heather Graham Pozzessere  was born March 15th 1953 in Miami-Dade County, Florida. USA, She attended the University of South Florida. She is a best-selling US writer, who writes primarily romance novels. She also writes under her maiden name Heather Graham as well as the pen name Shannon Drake.

Tuesday 14 January 2014

‘The Ambleside Alibi’ by Rebecca Tope

Published by Allison & Busby, 
November 2013.
ISBN: 978-0-7490-1274-8

Persimmom ‘Simmy’ Brown has now settled into her new home in Windermere.  Getting her florist shop up and running in the last year has taken her mind off the tragedy that caused her   to move to the Lake District.

As Simmy sets out to deliver a bouquet of flowers to a lady living on the northern fringe of Ambleside, with Christmas approaching, she is feeling optimistic. She is also intrigued by the strange message accompanying the flowers, and hopes that it won’t upset the elderly lady who opens the door to her—but fury seems to be the only registered emotion, and Simmy goes on her way. 

When later that day Detective Inspector Moxon appears at the shop and asks Simmy to accompany him to the police station to answer some questions, she is first astounded, and then shocked, when she discovers that she has been named as an alibi by a man whom the police suspect of killing an old lady.

Although desperate to keep out of the investigation Simmy finds herself drawn in by feisty Melanie, her assistant at the florists, and seventeen-year-old Ben, the younger brother of Wilf, Melanie’s ex boyfriend. Ben is passionately interested in forensics,  questions Simmy closely, and egged on by Melanie - whose family have livedin the area for generations - comes up with several theories.  Soon Simmy is immersed in the complex relationships of the parties involved and by doing so unwittingly herself becomes a target.

This is a interesting mystery with some unexpectedly startling twists which took me by surprise.  I love village mysteries, they are always only solved by delving back into the past, which in itself is fascinating, as old secrets surface.  Good characterisation and some marvellous descriptions of The Lake District.  I found myself thinking, why don’t I live there?  Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes

Rebecca Tope is the author of three popular murder mystery series, featuring Den Cooper, Devon police detective, Drew Slocombe, Undertaker, and Thea Osborne, house sitter in the Cotswolds. Rebecca grew up on farms, first in Cheshire then in Devon, and now lives in rural Herefordshire on a smallholding situated close to the beautiful Black Mountains.
Besides "ghost writer" of the novels based on the ITV series Rosemary and Thyme. Rebecca is also the proprietor of a small press - Praxis Books. This was established in 1992

Sunday 12 January 2014

‘Fatal Act’ by Leigh Russell

Published by No Exit Press
as a Kindle Ebook
ISBN 978-1-84344-206-6

Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel faces her sixth case in Fatal Act. The dramatic death of a young glamorous soap star in a car crash in the early hours of the morning is the beginning of this investigation.  The death is fraught with complications starting with the disappearance of the driver of the second car involved in the death who has apparently survived a horrific collision unhurt.   Another death of a young actress follows, also with the killer achieving a miraculous disappearance.   
Geraldine has an effective sergeant’s assistance but her relationship with her boss is a difficult one.  Through dogged persistence she eventually finds the end of the cord to pull to unravel what has happened.   All hinges on the motivation of the killer and the danger he presents comes surprisingly close to home.   Psychological factors are very important though a preference for the obvious suspect from her superiors makes Geraldine’s efforts  more complicated.
Geraldine is, as you would expect in such a testosterone-filled environment, a steely character but she is, on occasion, forced to doubt her own instincts.  Factors in her private life are sketched in lightly. The story is exciting and also shows the grunt work needed by the police when they try to track down such a peculiar killer.  

There is no need to have read the previous books - this one, while referencing some previous events and relationships stands alone as an investigation, and is highly recommended.
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer
Leigh Russell started this series with Cut Short and has 5 other books featuring Geraldine.  She also published the first title of a new series, Cold Sacrifice, with DI Peterson in 2013.
Leigh Russell studied at the University of Kent gaining a Masters degree in English and American literature. A secondary school teacher, specialising in supporting pupils with Specific Learning Difficulties as well as teaching English, Her first novel, Cut Short, was published in 2009, followed by Road Closed in 2010, Dead End in 2011, Death Bed in 2012 and Stop Dead in 2013, all featuring Detective Geraldine Steel. Cold Sacrifice the first in a new series featuring Ian Peterson was published in 2013. Leigh Russell is married with two daughters and lives in Middlesex.

Jennifer Palmer  Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.

‘Undercurrent’ by Pauline Rowson

Published by Severn House, 2013.
ISBN: 978-0-7278-8268-4

The title accurately suggests the sea and the Portsmouth setting is a vital part of this tale. The initial death investigated by Detective Inspector Horton is that of a naval historian who has apparently fallen into a dry dock at Portsmouth’s Historic dockyard.  Horton is an established character in Pauline Rowson’s books who has the usual sort of problems for a fictional detective - he is divorced and living alone on his boat.  He has a very interesting background beyond that though -  his mother disappeared when he was a child and he wants to discover what happened to her.  He intersperses his work on the historian’s death with his personal investigations.   This is not easy as the body count mounts!  His superiors are so ready to settle for simple explanations for deaths that he suspects that they have been instructed by some higher authority to wrap investigations up quickly and quietly.
The story moves at a brisk pace while allowing plenty of discussion of motives and questioning of witnesses.  The acrimonious relationship between Horton and his boss add to his burdens; he also functions at a level of extreme tiredness throughout most events.  This is a complex story reaching into the past for explanations.  While a conclusion about the perpetrator is reached, more complex questions still need answers as the book ends.

Jennifer S. Palmer
The series of DI Andy Horton crime stories began with Tide of Death; Undercurrent (the 9th book) was published this year and a tenth adventure has just been published.  Pauline Rowson has also written 2 stand-alone thrillers .
Reviewer: Jennifer Palmer

Pauline Rowson was born and raised in Portsmouth. Pauline draws her inspiration for her crime novels from the area in which she lives, which is diverse and never without incident. When she isn't writing (which isn't often) she can be found walking the coastal paths on the Isle of Wight and around Langstone and Chichester Harbours. Married to a former fire fighter Pauline knows all about the pressures experienced by the emergency services. She understands the culture and the black humour used as a means of coping with the traumatic situations officers experience, and draws on this knowledge in her writing. The pressures of the job, the shared dangers and the stress all combine to give those in the police and fire service one of the highest rates of divorce.  It's no wonder then that DI Andy Horton is no exception. He comes with personal emotional baggage and an ex wife but with an overriding desire, like many in the police and allied emergency services, to serve the community in which he lives and see that justice is done. Pauline is the founder of CSI Portsmouth an annual event part of Portsmouth Bookfest and a member of the Crime Writers' Association and the Society of Authors.

Jennifer Palmer Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.